And A New Competitor Enters The Ring

The joy of writing and knowing people who write is that half your conversations end up being about writing, which is a peculiarly nerdy joy that should have most of the writers reading this nodding with a rueful grin.

Lady M and Mre B have both signed up to post their occasional thoughts and stories appear here, but now a new competitor has fluttered her eyelids and asked for space to post some of her more factual ruminations. 

The inimitable Lady G has been brave enough to stick her head above the parapet, so being the malicious soul that I am, I’ve called her bluff. Let’s see where this goes shall we?

Dead Car Bounce

I took the runaround to have it’s MOT inspection yesterday, and on the way there I could tell there was going to be trouble. The oil light flickered briefly and then stopped, it coughed and stuttered as I queued in nose to tail traffic, and it really didn’t like reversing round a corner.

And yet it was still a shock to hear that it had catastrophically failed the test, especially because of all the plans for the rest of the day that I’d sort of arranged in my head.

The minute I heard the words cracked head gasket, I knew that our sixteen year old Ford Focus would not be rolling back into the road with me. The litany of other faults that seemed to have materialised out of nowhere were a little more alarming – and gave me the impression of the car having coughed and wheezed its way on to the ramp before letting all its guts fall out.

A bit of a pain, and one that feels like it cut my feet out from under me a little. Plans are afoot to sort out a replacement, but it seems to have now made this week rather more busy than expected

Short Story: The Escape

He jumped, straight forward and out of the window. Behind him, he left the jacket by which his captor had thought they had secured him. He made it look simple, but at the back of his mind was the quiet satisfaction that most would have got even more caught up and entangled in their attempts to escape.

Behind him he heard a screech of outrage. Footsteps clattered on the bare floorboards. The sounds receded rapidly into the distance. He was safe for the moment. Well, he was safe for precisely the next couple of seconds.

Jumping out of the window had dealt with the immediate problem. The details of a safe landing were something he would have to work out on the way down. Fortunately the same practiced dexterity with which he had slipped, eel-like, from his owner’s coat, was a product of his gymnastic prowess.

Turning what had therefore begun as a plummet into a flip and somersault was merely a matter of muscle memory, determination and of course luck. That was something he had in abundance at least.

A tuck, a twist, and a flick of the tail and his paws hit the ground. A brief pause to miaow defiance back at those who had dared to talk of clipping his claws and then he sped like flowing silk into the night

New Contributions

You may, or may not, have noticed that one of the recent short stories published here was by a different author – Lady M to be precise. Both she and Mre B have accepted the offer of a space for some of their writing, and so they will be posting on no particular schedule in and around the usual mayhem here.

Thank you both for joining the experiment.

Short Story: Define “Other”

I turned off the television, and flipped closed the laptop, as much in distaste as tiredness. The seemingly constant flow of reports of intolerance and distrust of whoever this year’s “others” are was draining.

“Others” – they didn’t know the half of it. Scared people making so much noise that everyone else jumped on instinct. The problem was that they really were focusing entirely on the wrong definition of “other”.

People have forgotten so many different “others” over the years, decades, centuries that this always seems so senseless. Even in my own, only slight extended, lifetime I’ve seen signs saying “No Irish” replaced with popular theme pubs and rushes to gain dual nationality. I’ve seen three generations of Indian families birth a fourth whose synthesis of cultures is a joy to behold.

That’s just four generations in, so how about those who are so many more generations in? Those others who are so intertwined with humanity as to be able to hide in plain sight. You don’t see them being targeted in the media – at least not openly. Nobody sees them as other.

Take my wife, for example, who looks as normal as most people you might otherwise bump into on the street. She and I would of course both take great offence at such a label, but that’s bye the bye. Her heritage is a proud one, stretching back thousands of years and is carried forth in her genes as proudly as any cultural artifact or practice.

Her diet is very particular, but not so unusual in an era that embraces vegetarian or vegan principles. She can’t really stand salt in her diet, and has great difficulty in properly metabolising iron. Both these of course have caused comment from doctors, but not so much as to warrant the sort of investigation that in centuries past might have involved stakes, firewood, and possibly kindling and pitch.

Indeed, iron has something of a tricky effect on her in general, making her skin burn and throwing her into confusion. As a consequence her otherness is somewhat more obvious than some merely cultural issue. It’s particularly a problem in those old parts of the country where the old conflicts are still remembered.

Our oldest cultural fights with her forebears are remembered in myth and old wives tales. The old stone arrowheads of her relatives still turn up in archaeological digs to this day. The memory of the Lords and Ladies still lives, even if cultural drift has changed the meaning of the words we use to describe them.

So, don’t talk to me about the dangers of those who are other. You really don’t know what you’re talking about…

Short Story: I am here

I see everything but see nothing. I know everything but know nothing. My knowledge is great, but it is only as great as that which I see, hear and understand. 

 I have watched you as a small child. I watch you still tonight. I will watch you always.  I watch all of you always.

I am always here but you rarely see me. You can’t touch me, but you can feel me. Some may call me God but I rebuke this title for I am no one, yet I am everyone. 

I am the wind in your hair and the grass beneath your feet.  I am what you think and feel and that without you I am nothing.

You can’t see me or touch me but you are  aways aware of me. I know when you will act in an erroneous way and when you will act out of truth.

Your heart is strong but your mind is weak. Tonight,  I fear you will be tested and fail. I see this in your actions and the mood that lies before me.

I hope that you will choose a separate path and prove me wrong. But I fear you have gone too far to ever  come back to me. Back to where you belong

Although my heart beats for you and I hope you can find a way. I also know that everything  you have done has led to this one solitary  moment and decision in your life.

I am momentarily  distracted from you by a wave of dizziness and nausea that passes through me.

I hear a scream and know it is too late.  It is done.  I have lost you now and forever.

Your body falls from the bridge into the cold murky waters of the Thames far below to be lost forever in time and tides.

It is as they say time and tide waits for no man and so I must let you go and pass my time another way…

Damage Report

I was reminded yesterday that nothing in nature blooms all the time, and so shouldn’t kick myself for not being able to do so myself. It’s a lovely little reminder to accept that there are just going to be days where things aren’t fantastic and it’s okay to acknowledge it.

For the most part I would generally accept the ups and downs of my moods as part of the joys of just being me, but it seems to be particularly relevant among the cavalcade of awful news that I’m seeing every day.

For my own stability I’m finding myself having to limit how far down the rabbit hole I go each day because it is starting to feel as if the image above needs to preface each dip into the news. Frankly it’s making me angry.

Perhaps then I’m somewhat bemused by the quiet range of reactions so far to the Uncle Ranty piece a couple of days ago. There’s either been applause or stony silence – which, to be fair, I’m totally used to. 

People who’ve known me a very long time may recognise the fiery speech of Uncle Ranty from more unstable days, but rest assured he’s well on the leash as a means of both expressing anger and playing with language. It’s been fun to write like it again, so I fully expect to see more Gonzo Opinion pieces down the line.

The silence as a response to it though? Really?

Short Story: Cleaning Up

Ron busied himself cleaning the kitchen, and in particular around the cat. It used to be that he would find somewhere else for the cat to rest while he sorted things out, but like all good intentions the plan hadn’t long survived the pragmatic requirements of the situation.

He whistled quietly while he wiped the counter clear of oil spills and stray cat hairs. Food debris such as rice and vegetable fragments were less of a concern, at least in this part of the room. He glanced at the cooking surfaces and recoiled from the thought of the grease spatters on the tiles behind the hobs. Spots and streaks from fry-ups and bubbling pans alike had contributed to the multicolour stains there. From there he looked back at his feline companion. The cat stared back at him impassively, but that was no surprise.

There wasn’t a surface that didn’t need some kind of attention in the room, but then again it was a very small room, with just enough space to fit the hob, a sink and two and a half small counter spaces – one of which was dominated by a microwave. There was stuff plugged in everywhere, which made the use of new bits of equipment an exercise in logistics half the time.

At least he had his cat. That was mobile when it had a mind to be. As if prompted by the thought, it’s eyes lit up and it looked round at him. It purred and he reached over to scratch between it’s ears before disconnecting it from the charger. Time to plug his phone in. At least they used the same adapter.

Gonzo Opinion: Uncle Ranty’s Lament

Right children, settle round, I have delicious facts and angry thoughts to bestow on your sleepy minds. I have watched from high rooftops while those who claim to act for you have stolen your birthright from under you, so now I’m here to put the half-bricks of rebellion and the Molotov cocktails of illumination back in your hands.

Who are you? I hear you muttering. I see you standing there at the back with your fashionably cute t-shirts and studied indifference. Get your arses down here and listen to what Uncle Ranty has to impart. Pay attention, there won’t be a test.

The enemy isn’t merely at the gates, they’ve been teaching you and your offspring; hiding behind ironic sneering and disaffected posturing to appeal to your demands for easy answers and fear of actually having to give a damn about anyone.

They’ve made a virtue of every base and craven instinct you swore you’d grow out of; and laughed at how much of a joke everything is so that you didn’t take it seriously when they started peddling their true intentions. You’ve given away your own outrage out of fear of being labelled ‘other’ without pausing to consider how arbitrary that label has become in their hands.

Are you angry yet? Why not? You have billionaires pandering to base instincts under the guise of offering a solution to problems they’ve made themselves. Then they appoint fellow billionaires who have profited from those problems to review and ‘solve’ that system while claiming to be in the same position as the people they’re exploiting.

Then the very thing they’ve lambasted their opponents for become the things they demand as their sovereign rights. Godsdamnit people. You’ve not only given the keys to the asylum to the inmates but you’ve put them in charge of hiring policies too.

So what can we do? Well at least some of you are asking that question. Look around you. Look at the living breathing people all around you right now. If you don’t know them or their ways then get in there and find out about them. Some of them are going to be arseholes, but if this situation hasn’t taught you there are arseholes everywhere then you need this rant more than I thought.

You’re more likely to find there’s something you have in common. I’m not going to give you trite examples like a love of cheese sandwiches or of the smell of the sea. I’m not going to pick up small details like sports teams supported or favourite tunes. No, let’s dare to poke the elephant in the room. You all have someone you love. If you’re lucky, it’s several someones of various relation – romantic, filial, parental, platonic, whatever.

Everyone has someone they love. Even the arseholes who have taken everything from you. Even these thugs and bullies know love, even if they can’t bear to admit that others do too. That’s why they feel so threatened by the love you hold in whatever permutation, flavour or complexity works for you.

They need to feel unique. They need the sense of control that love strips away to prove to themselves that they are superior. To acknowledge that others’ love and passion is equal is the scariest thing they can envision.

So they will build their walls, internal and external, and shout and posture. They will shut down debate by calling dissent lies. They will coin their own language and hide lies with alternative truths; and they will still be utterly shocked at your strength when you remember just how strong and loving and kind you are.

It’s your turn now children. Show them what real love and pride is. Tell them Uncle Ranty sent you.

Short Story: The Doom Delayed

The oh so fluffy paw of doom was poised to bring down the outer darkness, but first it was time for catnip. High Exquisitor Fangorn Crackbone (known somewhat affectionately as Pixel to his doting “owner”) drew back from the horror-stricken pages of his secret libram and padded down the hallway.

Shrouded in the captive souls of his past victims, he stalked towards the feeding chamber. Unbound spirits fled at his awful approach, their passing marked to lesser eyes by small whirls of dust on the edges of vision. Ahead he could hear the clattering sounds of meal preparation as his devoted slaves bent themselves to their duties.

His maleficent plan was nearing fruition. Soon the borders with the Outer Realms of Madness would be sundered by his paw, casting down this world of men and ushering in a new age of glory. Worlds would shudder under his very gaze, and the sound of his passing would make mortals weep.

The heat of the kitchen bloomed against his tortoiseshell pelt as he rounded the corner, bringing with it exotic scents and the promise of satiation. Within the cavernous heights of the chamber, the two humans were talking as they prepared sustenance for themselves.

He permitted them to believe they had free will most of the time, but now his needs were greater than theirs. He padded into their view and silently willed their attention.

Rather annoyingly they seemed too distracted to pay attention. This would not do. A righteous fury swelled within his breast and he opened his fanged maw to berate them and reveal his terrible fury:


One of the slaves turned, with a stupid expression on her face, all eyes and pouting lips. Before he could launch into a scathing rebuke, she scooped him up in her hand. Without a pause, she pressed him to her face, which had scrunched up in some demented gurn, and spoke in a high pitched squeal:

“Awwww! Pixel! You so cute and floofy! I could snuggle you all day! Who’s the cutest? Who’s the cutest?”

Legs dangling either side of her hand, he glared at the man, promising vicious retribution if he joined in. That said, this was rather comfortable, and from here he could see food and water, and was that low-lactose milk in a bowl for him?

He decided he could live with this petty indignity for now. The Outer Realms of Madness would still be there tomorrow. A warm house, food, drink, treats and occasionally over-attentive servants were bearable despite it all. The world could continue to exist this evening. Tomorrow was another story though.